On Tuesday Jack Riley, Head of Digital Audience and Content Development for British newspapers The Independent and its sister paper the I, lead a discussion on how traditional print journalism can embrace social media at the Spring 2011 meeting of the Digital Editors Network.
Here are Jack’s five tips on how to make newspapers social.
“It's both terrifyingly interesting and interestingly terrifying”
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1. Share and share-a-like
Jack began by focusing on the importance of allowing readers to share news content. The Independent recently started adding Facebook ‘send’ buttons to all its online articles alongside its ‘recommend’ buttons. The ‘send’ button is similar to the ‘recommend’ in the sense that it is a sharing application, the difference is who it shares the content with. By hitting recommend the reader posts the article link to their Facebook wall for all their friends to see, by hitting send the reader can chose a specific person or group to send it to.
“A lot of people, when they see a piece of content that they really want to share with their friends, don’t necessarily want to share it with all their friends… you might just want to give it to one person and emailing is the way that people used to do it, maybe the ‘send’ button is the way people will do it from now on,” he said.
2. Keep count!
Sticking with sharing content, but this time on Twitter. TweetMeme is one of the ways that newspapers manages content. By adding a TweetMeme Retweet button to articles journalists can see how many people are sharing the link.
The Independent website uses TweetMeme with url shortening service Bitly.
Bitly Analytics is available for Bitly Pro users. Not only does it tell the journalist how many times the article has been shared it also gives a break down of how and where it’s being shared.
“[Bitly Analytics] are really, really fundamental cues to not just having your content socially optimizing itself… but also in letting you take editorial decisions based on editorial cues. So saying ‘wow… 600 people have clicked on this link, this is a big deal, maybe we should bump it up in traditional editorial slots’ like on the top of the front page,” he said.
3. Get answers
Using Facebook Questions on Fan Pages is an effective way of getting information from readers quickly.
“In the case of the Royal Wedding coverage we asked people, fans of the ‘I’ Facebook page, “how much Royal Wedding coverage do you want to see in the ‘I’?” We weren’t just putting it out there, we’re really trying to evolve the editorial agenda of that new print project very, very fast. So this information is crucial to us in making sure that the ‘I’ is a success as it launches and in the stages of getting a bit established. We really wanted to know how much does the ‘I’ reader want to read about the Royal Wedding. The answer was not at all,” Jack said.
4. Tweet and Retweet
Not only do The Independent and the I have central Twitter accounts, they also encourage their journalists to have individual accounts where they can tweet and retweet content. Mentions and retweets across accounts help publicize both individuals and the papers on a whole.
“Nobody wants to go from world expert… to having no followers, no likes, so it’s important to use your central accounts to prop people up and to give them an audience,” he said.
5. Don’t do all the leg work
Live blogging on news sites allows readers to bring the stories to the journalists. Put a question out and see what comes back.
“It takes all that pressure of having to think ‘are people really interested in this, is this the kind of thing people want to know about’ and you let your audience guide you,” he said.